Carl Mays holds an inglorious place in baseball's record books: he's the only man known to kill a batter with a pitch.
Now, one lucky -- and somewhat morbid -- fan can own a piece of that history. Heritage auction house is selling a baseball signed by Mays 11 years after his inside pitch beaned and killed a young Indians player.
Ray Chapman was an up-and-coming shortstop for Cleveland, and at the Polo Grounds in Manhattan, New York he went up to bat against Mays, who was a mean, skilled pitcher. Mays was known for a submarine approach and had a reputation for throwing inside to brush back batters and intimidate the opposition.
Against Chapman, Mays went a little too far high and inside. According to Forbes, the ball hit Chapman's skull with such force, and such a loud cracking noise, that Mays thought the ball had been hit. He fielded the grounder and threw the ball to first. Blood immediately began gushing from Chapman's head, and he went to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Doctors removed part of his skull, but it was to no avail: 12 hours later, Chapman was dead.
Mays, meanwhile, cemented his reputation as a mean-spirited pitcher, with Chapman's death serving as the signature moment in his baseball career. In its item description, Heritage notes that Mays retired with a 207-126 record and a 2.92 career ERA -- better figures than some people in the Hall of Fame.
Bidding on the ball is open until April 5. Collectibles experts say that artifacts with inglorious ties to history can have unpredictable demand at auction, but recent history tends to suffer much more than events long since passed.
Whereas memorabilia for, say, O.J. Simpson remains a poor seller, an autographed baseball this old could draw huge demand -- even if its signer is best-known for killing a batter.